Posted Friday 26 May 2017
Kingston University staff member Edward Todino was one of five disabled people to receive keys to their first adapted vehicle provided by a charity called Motability recently. The presentation was made at a celebratory event marking the 40th anniversary of the charity at Windsor Castle.
Mr Todino, a disability adviser at Kingston University's Student Life Centre, received his first vehicle personally from her Majesty the Queen. The Mercedes TBC Sprinter – which he has on a five-year lease – has been converted with special features to specifically cater for his needs. The adaptations will allow Mr Todino to drive his motorised wheelchair in to the van and then transfer to the driver's seat.
The Queen has been the chief patron of the charity, which oversees and sets policy for the Motability Scheme, since its inception in 1977. It provides an affordable way for people with disabilities to lease a car, scooter or powered wheelchair in exchange for their Personal Independence Payment benefit allowance (formerly known as the Disability Living Allowance).
Mr Todino said that he was honoured to fly the flag for Motability and had been both excited and nervous to attend afternoon tea hosted by the Queen for 400 guests. "Windsor Castle is so big and the facilities for disabled people have been worked in to the original structure so it took a while to navigate the space," he explained. "I was accompanied by my parents, two brothers, sister, sister-in-law and niece and we were all briefed on security and etiquette."
Mr Todino followed protocol when he met the monarch by bowing from his chair and said that the conversation that followed was very natural and he had been surprised by the amount of time she had given to him and his family. "The Queen spent ten minutes chatting to us. She knew that I worked for Kingston University and was very genuine and interested in my life," he said. "We discussed my values and faith, the difference the motability vehicle would make to my life, and of course, the nation's favourite topic – the weather."
In a message to the charity, Her Majesty The Queen said: "I congratulate Motability not only on reaching its 40th anniversary, but also during this time, how it has changed and enriched the lives of millions of disabled people, their families and friends by helping them to access a world of increased mobility and freedom."
Mr Todino joined the University's student life team last August. The 29 year old – who was brought up in Epsom, Surrey – is an advocate for the rights of disabled people having penned pieces for regional and national press about the challenges of finding a job and the scarcity of accessible housing.
His role involves advising students and staff on how the University can ensure that the necessary adjustments are in place to enable them to go about their daily lives on campus and in halls, something he believes the University does well. "Kingston University is forward-thinking when it comes to the needs of disabled staff and students," he said. "The service we provide is open and progressive and I am proud that I actively contribute to making disabled students' lives better so that they can benefit fully from their time at Kingston University."
Now that Mr Todino has his new van, his next step is to learn to drive with lessons being funded with a grant from Motability. He said that he cannot wait to get behind the wheel, especially on his daily commute to the University. "I currently travel from my home in Putney on public transport by bus and train and am very reliant on other people to help me. It will be life-changing to be mobile on my own terms and gain more independence," he said.